Are you curious about Functional Capacity Assessments (FCA) as part of the NDIS? The FCA evaluates an individual's ability to perform everyday tasks, determining if they meet the criteria for NDIS funding — though you don't need an FCA to apply for NDIS funding. By understanding the importance of the FCA, you'll be better equipped to navigate the NDIS application process and access the support you need.

We’ll look at what a functional capacity assessment entails, who can perform it, and what areas of functionality are evaluated. We’ll also look at how you can request an FCA. Armed with this knowledge, you'll be able to make more informed decisions about your NDIS funding and support needs — helping you actively participate in your care planning for a more independent life.

What is a functional capacity assessment as part of the NDIS?

A functional capacity assessment, while not mandatory, is an important aspect of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). It is designed to evaluate a person's ability to perform daily tasks at home, work, and in the community. Functional capacity can be classified into six areas, with the assessment looking at:

  • Communication
  • Learning
  • Mobility
  • Self-care
  • Self-management
  • Social interaction

To be eligible for NDIS funding, the participant must have a permanent impairment that substantially reduces their ability to undertake the above-mentioned activities.

Woman testing strength with occupational therapist

What is "substantially reduced functional capacity"?

"Substantially reduced functional capacity" means a significant limitation to a person's ability to perform daily tasks, participate in activities, or engage in life without assistive technology, equipment, or support from others. Your impairment is considered to significantly reduce your functional capacity if you typically require disability-specific supports to participate in or accomplish the following:

  • Communication: This relates to your ability to express yourself through speech, sign language, writing or gestures in comparison to others of your age. It also involves your comprehension of others and how effectively others understand you.
  • Social Interaction: This focuses on your ability to form and maintain friendships, interact with the community, or for a young child, play with other children. It also considers your ability to manage emotions in social contexts.
  • Learning: This covers how you learn, understand, remember new information, and practice and implement new skills.
  • Mobility:  This involves your ability to navigate your home and the community, including getting in and out of bed or a chair. It takes into account how you move around and use your limbs.
  • Self-Care:  This includes hygiene, personal care, grooming, drinking, eating and health. It considers how you manage tasks like showering, bathing, eating, dressing, or using the restroom.
  • Self-Management: This encompasses your ability to plan, take care of yourself, and make decisions. This could include everyday tasks at home, problem-solving, or financial planning. The focus is on your mental or cognitive ability to handle your life, not your physical ability to do these tasks.
Medical practitioner and elderly woman in purple

How can I get a Functional Capacity Assessment?

You can demonstrate your need for NDIS funding without undergoing a Functional Capacity Assessment, which may be too expensive for some applicants. In this case, you can provide a support letter from a health professional that outlines your specific support needs.

However, if you require or would like to get an FCA, you can request it either before or after you have been granted NDIS funding.

What is evaluated during functional capacity assessments?

This will depend on your specific situation and the evidence you submit in your application. Let's say you have a disability that significantly impacts your ability to move, but your cognitive abilities are intact. In such a case, the NDIA might not need to assess your cognitive-related daily activities. The assessment report will likely contain the following elements:

  • Use of toilet facilities
  • Eating/feeding habits
  • Dressing, maintaining personal hygiene, and grooming
  • Showering routine
  • Use of mobility aids and transitions

The assessment will probably also include your social context, such as your ability to manage:

  • Laundry/cleaning tasks
  • Home maintenance activities
  • Managing finances and budgeting
  • Using the telephone
  • Navigating travel and transportation
  • Shopping
  • Preparing meals and cooking

While completing the functional assessment template, your Occupational Therapist (OT) will ask questions about certain areas. For example, questions that relate to everyday tasks that take place around the home. Next, the OT will conduct a practical assessment to identify any tasks that pose challenges. Finally, the OT will document their observations and recommend continued support, therapeutic intervention, or assistive technology, as necessary.

Who can perform a functional capacity assessment?

Functional Capacity Assessments are generally conducted by Occupational Therapists (OTs) or other specialised healthcare experts. When looking for an OT to carry out your Functional Capacity Assessment, a referral from your general practitioner could be helpful. This is because they should already be familiar with your requirements and can suggest a suitable professional for you.

However, a referral from a general practitioner isn't a prerequisite to seeing an OT for a Functional Capacity Assessment. Alternatively, you have the option to locate an OT yourself. It's important to note that not all OTs specialise in Functional Capacity Assessments, so it's vital to choose an OT with expertise in this field.

Man doing cognitive assessment

How long does a functional capacity assessment take?

A full functional capacity assessment can take up to 10 hours and is typically conducted over multiple sessions. The duration depends on the complexity of the individual's situation and the funding allocated for the assessment in their NDIS plan. The assessment can take place in various settings such as the individual's home, a clinic, or through remote means such as phone or video chat.

After you get your NDIS funding

Whether you've undergone a Functional Capacity Assessment or not, securing NDIS funding is a significant step towards independence and achieving your community access goals.

Once you've been granted NDIS funding, you're not alone in this journey. At Like Family, we’re here to offer our support. We're dedicated to helping you work towards your goals via social and community support.

Connect with us today to learn more about our disability support services.